Employee Considerations for Brexit

On 31 January 2020, the United Kingdom formally ceases its membership of the European Union. From this date, a transitional period will be in place until the end of 2020, during which, longer-term trade and immigration arrangements will be worked out. Until now, UK employers have benefitted from free movement of labour across the EU, which, together with strong employment growth in recent years, has attracted a high number of EU citizens to live and work in.


Although the transition period will keep existing provisions around free movement of people and goods as they are before Brexit, this period is finite. Businesses should therefore take appropriate steps to plan for and support their workforce now.


While a no-deal Brexit remains a technical possibility if a trade agreement between the UK and the EU is not agreed before the end of this transition, the immediate considerations for employers and H.R. practitioners will focus on retaining their staff and preparing them to meet any future legal requirements regarding their continuing right to work in the UK.


Select below, the situations which apply to your organisation to find out the actions you may need to take to prepare for Brexit. Please note that the actions focus on the various people implications rather than any political or trade matters.

UK Firms with EU Employees


Your organisation is UK-based and employs EU/EEA citizens in the UK.

  • Provide support to EU/EEA* and Swiss nationals and their families to apply for settled or pre-settled status under the European Settlement Scheme (EUSS) by 30 June 2021.

  • Where employees work within a regulated profession, requiring set qualifications, these may need to be ‘officially recognised’ in the UK after the transitional period if the qualifications were not attained in the U.K. Help and assist employees to seek recognition from the relevant regulators before 1 January 2021.

  • If you are unsure, first find out who are, and how many affected workers you have in this category. Ensure they receive the support and information that they need.

*Countries that belong to the EEA include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden.

UK Firms Recruiting from EU


Your organisation is UK-based and is planning to recruit EU citizens to work in the UK.

  • If possible, undertake your recruitment of new employees from the EU/EEA/Switzerland to the UK prior to 31 December 2020 and support them, as soon as possible, to apply for pre-settled status under the European Settlement Scheme (EUSS).

  • If you are recruiting EU/EEA/Swiss nationals, that will arrive in the U.K. after 31 December 2020, for work, they will need to qualify under the new post-Brexit immigration system.

  • Where employees work within a regulated profession requiring set qualifications, e.g. healthcare, engineering, law, finance, and education. They may need to be ‘officially recognised’ in the UK after the transitional period if the qualifications were not attained here. Support new recruits to actively seek recognition from the relevant regulators, prior to arrival, if possible.

  • If unsure, talk to your HR personnel and/or those with recruitment responsibilities within the organization, to see whether they have plans to recruit in the near future.

  • If so, do those plans include hiring EU citizens? Discuss what is the best option for filling the role – If EU hires are being considered, take action as listed above.

UK Employees in the EU


My organisation is UK-based and employs EU-based UK citizens.

  • Provide your affected workers with information on the relevant arrangements for the EU country in which they are based. They can continue to work in the EU as they are currently before 1 January 2021.

  • It would appear, that medium-term arrangements vary between EU countries. Hence employers should review the summary of the latest position for each member state published by the European Commission. Support your UK workers by finding out and applying for the reciprocal settlement scheme in the EEA country (including Switzerland) in which they are based.

  • Any UK nationals, who are expected to work in the EU from 1 January 2021 will have to comply with EU and national immigration rules, i.e. obtain a work permit. New restrictions will also be in place for business visitors, assignees and cross border workers.

  • Where employees work within a regulated profession requiring set qualifications, these may need to be ‘officially recognised’ in the EU country of work after the transitional period if the qualifications were not attained there. Assist employees in seeking recognition from the relevant regulators before 1 January 2021.

  • If unsure, first find out who are and how many affected workers you have in this category, then take the action as listed above.

Travel to the EU for Work


My organisation is UK-based and employs UK citizens needing to travel for the EU for work.

  • UK nationals will be able to continue travelling and working in EU countries without restriction before 1 January 2021.

  • After 1 January 2021, employers may need to support UK employees to apply for relevant visas and permits in specific EU countries, even if working only for a few days. Check what the entry requirements or necessary documents are and have them ready before travelling.

  • From 1 January 2021, UK nationals travelling to the EU for business meetings only, will likely be able to continue as normal, however, visits will be limited to 90 days in any 180-day period for the whole of the Schengen zone** (not individual countries).

  • Where employees work within a regulated profession requiring set qualifications, these may need to be ‘officially recognised’ in the EU country of work after the transitional period if the qualifications were not attained there. Support employees to seek recognition from the relevant regulators before 1 January 2021.

  • For travelling staff, let them know that there are no changes to current arrangements until 1 January 2021.

**The 26 Schengen countries are: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.

Travel from the EU for work


Your organisation is UK-based and employs EU citizens needing to travel to the UK for work.

  • EU/EEA/Swiss nationals travelling to the UK for work can continue to do so before 1 January 2021.

  • From 1 January 2021, EU/EEA/Swiss citizens will need to comply with the new business visitor rules in the UK. The UK will no longer accept national ID cards for entry to the UK for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens from this date.

  • Where employees work within a regulated profession requiring set qualifications, these may need to be ‘officially recognised’ in the UK after the transitional period if the qualifications were not attained here. Hence there will be a need to assist employees to seek recognition from the relevant regulators before 1 January 2021.

  • For travelling staff, let them know that there are no changes to current arrangements until 1 January 2021.

Crossing the Irish Border for Work


Your organisation is based in Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland, and employs workers needing to cross the border for work

  • Advise, through staff communications that there are no pending changes and that staff can continue to travel and work as they have been, whether they are Irish or UK citizens and can continue to work and travel freely between both countries, under the Common Travel Agreement (CTA).

  • Give assurance to any employees with Irish citizenship, that they will not need to apply for settled status in the UK.

EU citizens still yet to apply for settled status

  • Employers must advise EU workers to start the application process or risk them not registering in time, experts warn.

The Current State of Affairs


There are hundreds of thousands of applications for settled status yet to be made. Government figures suggest that there is an increasing risk of people not registering in time. More than 2.7 million EU citizens, currently living in the UK, have applied for the status. Of these, some 2.45 million decisions have been made. However, it is estimated that there are some 3.5 million EU citizens currently living in the UK, meaning more than 743,000 additional applications could be submitted before the current deadline of 31 December 2020. This would mean processing more than 14,000 applications a week.


“Settled status” can be claimed by EU citizens who have lived in the UK for a continuous five-year period and allows the recipient the right to live and work in the UK indefinitely after Brexit. Any applicants who have not met the continuous residence threshold are given the more temporary pre-settled status, which only allows for a further five years of residence from the date the status is granted.


There would be the possibility after that period for EU citizens to apply for settled status if they submitted reasons why they missed the initial deadline.

Acknowledgment is given to CIPD for providing some of the content of this article.


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